by: Msgr. Armando A. Villarruz
Christmas Eve Mass – HOMILY
I – Intro.:
- One of the things we like about Christmas is that we receive gifts – Christmas gift-giving (pamasko, pasalubong, mano po ninong, etc.).
- In this connection, I would like to tell the story of a man (named Joseph Mohr, from Austria) who received a beautiful gift from God & who shared it with the entire world.
- His beginnings were unpromising because his father abandoned him before he was born.
- His mother alone had to raise him with her meager living by knitting sweaters, caps & socks.
- With these small earnings, she was able to send young Joseph to school.
- Later, feeling a call to the priesthood, Joseph entered the seminary & in 1815 became a priest of the Diocese of Salzburg, Austria.
- The Bishop assigned him to a lonely mountain parish.
- Then, one quiet night, the young priest sat down & composed a brief poem.
- He kept the verses to himself for two years.
- Then, shortly before Christmas, he showed it to a friend, Franz Guber, who provided the melody.
- I am sure, you have heard of this poem.
- It’s opening words (in German): Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! (in English, Silent Night! Holy Night!).
- And so, at the Midnight Mass in 1818, Fr. Joseph Mohr’s small parish heard the hymn for the first time.
- The congregation loved it so much & each Chrstmas, they looked forward to singing this carol which their pastor had composed.
- About 15 years later, some traveling troubadours heard the hymn at a Christmas Mass & they picked it up & performed it at a concert.
- It spread quickly & in 1839, it was sung for the first time in America.
- Soon, it was translated into English, Spanish & many other languages.
- The poem became the most popular Christmas hymn of all times.
- Fr. Joseph Mohr lived for another 30 years after writing his poem.
- In spite of the hymn’s popularity, the composer died penniless.
- Imagine, if you consider the number of times Silent Night has been printed & recorded, the royalties would amount to billions of dollars.
- But, he had spent his earnings as a pastor to care for the elderly.
- Fr. Joseph Mohr was buried in the churchyard of Wagrain, Austria, where he had served as pastor for 10 years.
- It was only then that the world recognized him as the author of Silent Night.
II – Message:
- What lesson can we learn here?
- Fr. Joseph Mohr received his poem as a gift from God, then he gave it as a gift, first, to his parishioners, then to children & adults throughout the world.
- The story of Silent Night is appropriate for Christmas.
- Before we appreciate the gift of the Christ child, we need to remember that there is joy to receive a gift, but, there is greater joy to be able to give one.
- Life itself is a gift.
- Yet, there is even greater gift than life.
- And that is what we celebrate tonight.
- We experience life as a combination of lonings & limitations.
- Each of us has a hidden self which we wish to reveal to someone who really cares.
- That someone does exist.
- We celebrate his birth today.
- A young man, who never knew his own father, experienced that care from Christ.
- On a lonely night, he wrote that beautiful poem about that experience.
III – Conclusion:
I would like to request the choir to sing Silent Night during the Presentation of the Gifts & as we sing it & offer our gifts to the Lord, let us remember & learn from Fr. Joseph Mohr’s generosity to the world that echoes the words of Christ (in Mt.10:8): “What you receive as a gift, give it as a gift.”
Merry Christmas to you all!